Not Even My Name

The door that opens into Sano Halo’s story of survival, a triumphant narrative of exceptional magnitude, is not a sweeping battle or a horrifying death scene but a delicate detail, poignant in its fragility. As a little girl, author Thea Halo recalls asking about the minuscule scars on her mother’s thigh. Are the barely visible marks dimples, she wants to know? They are, the mother tells the daughter as a faraway look comes into her eyes, “all that’s left.”

Two faded scars, marks left by a snakebite received in childhood, are the sole, mute remnants of the life of ten-year-old Themia, a Pontic Greek girl who would lose her entire family, village, and even her name, becoming Sano Halo. From 1915 to 1923 General Kemal Ataturk targeted 3 million Turkish-born Christian minorities for extermination, including the Pontic Greeks, Assyrians, and Armenians. Whole villages were ordered emptied, their inhabitants sent on death marches under the watch of armed soldiers. Nearly all died en route to southern Turkey and were left unburied on the roads where they had succumbed to hunger, thirst, disease, and exposure.

Of the beautiful and ancient Pontic Greek culture that Sano passes down to her daughter—food, folk tales, music and poetry, holidays, life cycle events, religious observances, even the hand manufacture of linens—nothing remains in Turkey, not even a memory. Upon their return in 1989 Thea and Sano discover that contemporary Turks...

(The entire section is 472 words.)